Filming scenes at the childhood home of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer proved to be an even more terrifying experience than the stars of a new biopic ever could have imagined.
Ross Lynch — who portrays a teenage version of the murderer in the new drama “My Friend Dahmer” — and his co-star Alex Wolff still struggle to explain a harrowing occurrence that took place after they shot a haunting sequence outside the secluded house in Akron, Ohio.
“We were feeling very sick to our stomachs, nauseous,” recalls Wolff, who plays Dahmer’s real-life friend John (Derf) Backderf in the movie. “I was feeling angry because I was feeling so bad, and I got out of the car and I said, ‘You know what? F–k Jeffrey Dahmer. What just a piece of s–t. Just f–k him. This whole movie I’ve tried empathize, tried to be there for him, but f–k Jeffrey Dahmer.'”
He’d quickly come to regret those words. At the exact moment Wolff cursed Dahmer’s name, every light inside the house — and even the backup power generators — immediately cut out, leaving the actors genuinely creeped out
“It was one of those scenarios where you’re like, ‘Was this just a coincidence, or is something weird going on?’ ” Lynch told the Daily News.
Wolff, 19, began shouting out an apology as soon as the power went out. But the damage was already done.
“The whole night I was waking up in sweats, feeling like I was being haunted,” Wolff said. “I don’t know what it was. I was feeling really weird.”
That home was the site of Dahmer’s first murder. He went on to kill a total of 17 men between 1978 and 1991, and was known to dismember his victims and preserve certain body parts. “My Friend Dahmer” — due out on Nov. 3 — is based on a book by the same name written by the real Derf, who went to school with Dahmer at the onset of his descent into madness.
Lynch — who rose to fame on Disney’s “Austin & Ally” — fully immersed himself in his role by watching old interviews of the killer, speaking to his former classmates and learning as much as possible about his crimes.
That intense preparation allowed Lynch, 21, to get inside the mind of the murderer the best he could.
“The research of everything he did, and how he did it, and being at his house and being in that environment, and also essentially being him every day, there’s not really a lot you have to do because you’re already exposed to it all day, every day,” Lynch said of transforming into the character.
“Really the challenge was not to get in (his head), but to get out of it.”
The darkness of the subject matter followed Lynch home sometimes, and he recalls taking long showers as a way of decompressing.
“I found myself feeling, on some days, numb to emotion,” Lynch said. “It was really strange. That was part of the character, and part of the goal of the film for was to have this kid who’s essentially just your average kid … but as the film goes on you see him losing his humanity. I think somewhere along the way, I started to feel a little like (I) did. I wasn’t necessarily talking to people. I found myself being very antisocial, which is unlike me.”
Lynch never let those underlying feelings change his mood entirely, but he says it took about a week after production wrapped for him to completely return to his normal self.
Clearly, his intense dedication to the performance paid off in the eyes of his co-star.
“I felt like, every day, (I was) really disturbed by what he was doing,” Wolff said of Lynch. “He had a dead look in his eye, which is not what he normally has. … A lot of times I felt really creeped out and thought of as him as Jeff, but when the scene was over, I really felt a great pride for him.”
Dahmer remains one of the deadliest serial killers in history, but Lynch believes the film offers a new perspective on the issues he dealt with as a kid.
“I did feel empathy, I did feel bad for him by the end of the film,” Lynch said. “One of my goals was to make the viewer feel strangely conflicted. I want you to know he’s going to go off and kill 17 people, but I also want you to feel like maybe there could have been another outcome.”